SKIRTING the river road, (my forenoon walk, my rest,)
Skyward in air a sudden muffled sound, the dalliance of the eagles,
The rushing amorous contact high in space together,
The clinching interlocking claws, a living, fierce, gyrating wheel,
Four beating wings, two beaks, a swirling mass tight grappling,
In tumbling turning clustering loops, straight downward falling,
Till o’er the river pois’d, the twain yet one, a moment’s lull,
A motionless still balance in the air, then parting, talons loosing,
Upward again on slow-firm pinions slanting, their separate diverse flight,
She hers, he his, pursuing.
The Dalliance of Dogs
Skirting the backyard fence, (my nightly chore, scooping)
Across the dew-laden air a muffled sound, the dalliance of dogs.
The rushing amorous contact underneath the tire swing,
The clinching interlocking paws, a living, fierce
Two wagging tails, two panting tongues,
one grappling tight, the other unwilling
In short, bumping, shaking procession
Across the yard they go.
Till under the slide, a moments lull.
Stuck, a tense pause
Then I yell, and they go their separate ways
She hers, he his, pursuing the next heat wave.
The narrator is arrested and held by an experience while taking a customary midday walk along a river road. Previously, his walk brought him rest. This day he looks on as two eagles force his sense and imagination to a new pitch, where action, space, and time are all magnified in intensity to the point of revelation. We are delivered to the world of nature and the world of art at once. For Whitman it is love that the narrator metaphorically ascribes to these creatures of flight and grace—our love—because this is amorous dalliance and pursuit to us, but what to them? Surely, we will never know. They “skirt” the human road, and do not walk it as we do. Seen rightly and with human eyes, this is nothing but a revelation of what comes to us from existence and beckons us to love, and love passionately. Thanks to Whitman and the eagles to which he was able to bear witness.
The dalliance of the eagles basically deals with a person having experienced how to spot eagles mating. The persona of the poem is a person, probably a farmer in the rural area. As he was going home at noontime, he saw two eagles on foreplay before the mating itself. And he was telling someone who has now experience of seeing eagles mate. Relating it to real life experience, it is showing to us experienced people to impart the knowledge to those who has none. In sum, experience, either personal or impersonal, is still the best teacher.